Transcend This World – Imam Zaid Shakir

Imam Zaid Shakir expounds on the crises of despair in society, its impact on the Muslim community, and Islam as the cure for this disease.

الْحَمْدُ لِلَّـهِ الَّذِي أَنزَلَ عَلَىٰ عَبْدِهِ الْكِتَابَ وَلَمْ يَجْعَل لَّهُ عِوَجًا

Our praises due to Allah who has revealed the scripture unto his servant and has made no crookedness therein. (Sura al Kahf 18:1)

Allah Most High has blessed us to live in interesting times, as they say. One of the characteristics of our time, speaking specifically of this land that we reside in, is the despair that we see. That despair can be measured by what collectively are referred to as the diseases of despair: drug addiction, alcoholism, suicide, depression.

In terms of drug addiction, just discarding other forms of drugs, every day in this country, there are 170 fatal overdoses from opioids alone – heroin, morphine, percocet, oxycontin – the whole family of opioids. One hundred and seventy.

Were it not for Narcan which revives overdose victims, maybe it would be eight hundred a day, because for every one who fatally overdoses seven or eight are revived who would otherwise fatally overdose.

The Ravages of Despair

There are 241 alcohol consumption related deaths every day in this country. Just consumption. Excluding alcohol-related deaths, most fatal fatalities from auto accidents, the majority are alcohol-related. Most killings in domestic violence are alcohol-related. Maybe not most. A large percentage. But excluding all of that, 241 who die from overconsumption of alcohol every day.

There are 123 suicides every day. Almost 4,000 suicide attempts every day, which means that there are far more, because a lot of suicide attempts aren’t reported to the authorities. Increasingly large numbers of our children who should be the most hopeful find themselves dead as a result of suicide. Diseases of despair.

You see Muslims increasingly falling into many of these categories which indicates two things. One is a ignorance of our religion, because one who has knowledge of this religion understands that this is the antidote to despair: the anti-despair medicine.

The other is weakness of faith, which means there might be knowledge of the religion, but that knowledge hasn’t penetrated to the depths of the heart, so that it affects the hearts in ways that insulate the individual from the ravages of despair.

Understanding of Religion

We should understand. Understanding is very important. The Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, says: “The one Allah desires good for, He gives him or her a sound understanding of the religion.” We can mention a balance of the hadith because it has benefit in it.

It was related from Mu‘awiya, Allah be pleased with him, who said, “The Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, says: ‘The one Allah desires good for, He gives him or her a sound understanding of the religion. I dispense the Revelation, it is Allah who gives understanding.’”

So the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, gives it freely to everyone but Allah causes those seeds that he, Allah bless him and give him peace, spreads out to take root in some hearts. “And there will always remain from this community of believers a party, a group, who will establish their affair on the basis of the commandment of Allah.” (Bukhari)

What the Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, is telling us is that understanding translates into action. The foundation of our action is establishing our affair on the commandment of Allah. People are rejecting their traditional religious teachings. As people increasingly turn to atheism and that’s part and parcel of the crisis of despair.

Atheism and Meaninglessness

There’s no coincidence that as atheism goes up suicide goes up, because atheism is telling a human being that you’re no different from this […] this minbar I’m standing on. You are no different than these walls. You’re no different than a fly. You’re no different then feces or urine. You’re just physical stuff.

If a human being comes to believe that he or she is just physical stuff, there’s no relationship to a higher power, there’s nothing to hope for beyond the demise of this physical body, why not commit suicide? Why not end it all? There’s nothing beyond this to hope for. That’s one of the reasons you see this upward trajectory.

The believers must hold on to the commandment of Allah. The believers must hold as lawful that which our Lord through his Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, has declared to be lawful. And the believer must maintain and hold on to what our Lord through his Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, directly from Revelation, which came through the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, or through his Sunna, have declared to be unlawful.

The lawful is unambiguously clear. The unlawful is unambiguously clear. Between those two are doubtful matters. Most people don’t know their rulings. There are people who want to make that which is unambiguously clear from the mutashabihat in terms of its lawfulness, and that which is unambiguously clear in terms of its unlawfulness, amongst the doubtful matters.

Adhere to The Book and The Sunna

Well, we need to reassess this. 1,400 years of Islam and scholarship from some of the most brilliant minds to ever walk this planet couldn’t figure out how Muslims are supposed to dress? 1,400 years of scholarship with clear unambiguous evidence, scriptural evidence, couldn’t figure out who Muslims should go to bed with?

We need to reassess? No, we need to adhere to the Book of Allah and the Sunna of his Messenger, Allah bless him and give him peace, and die upon that and pass it on to our descendants. If we do that, we’ve done our job. If we fail to do that, there’s going to be more suicides. There’s going to be more alcoholism. There’s going to be more drug overdoses, because people will be lost.

The prophets were sent to guide people. And this Umma, the scholars of this Umma are the heirs of the prophets. And their communities are the community of believers in this world. They will establish their affair on the commandment of Allah. They will not be harmed by those who oppose them until the command of Allah.

Some scholars say [the command] is the emergence of the dajjal. Some scholars say it is the wind that will blow at the end of time and take the souls of the believers. Most scholars say it is Doomsday. They won’t be harmed.

Hold on to Your Inheritance

Our task, brothers and sisters, if you want to be safe and you want to be sound, make sure you’re in that group. Ibn Hajar al Askalani says it could be one group in one place, but most likely it is many groups. There’s some here, there’s some there. Some in America. Some in Africa. There’s some in Asia. There’s some in Europe.

This is a source of mercy, not just for us but for the world. As we said, the world, this country and the world in general, is being besieged by despair and hopelessness. We are the people of hope. Not foolish optimism, but the people of Hope.

We are the people of prophetic guidance and prophetic guidance brings clarity. We are the people of mercy. One of the reasons a lot of Muslims are so downcast and gloom-struck in our day and times is because they believe the lives of people who profit from their being no source of hope for people.

There are people that profit from that and say, “Oh, you Muslims, you have no mercy and compassion in your heart.” And Muslims start believing that. You want to know no compassion? No compassion are people who would sell nine million narcotic pills in a small town in Appalachia.

The Invention of Falsehoods

Prescribe nine million knowing this is going to addicting entire population. Where is the mercy in that? Then the people are dropping like flies from overdoses. Where is the mercy in that? Where is the mercy in fabricating enemies for the sole purpose of feeding a war machine that’s financed by 700 billion dollars of our tax money to keep the factories making bombs?

Inventing enemies in this country to keep this a machine of Islamic hate going. They’re stealth jihad. They’re taking over. Taking over what? “The Muslim Brotherhood’s taking over Congress and the Senate and our institutions.” Well, they’re doing a terrible job. there are 535 congressmen and 100 senators; 435 representatives.

There are zero Muslim senators and one Muslim congressman. Zero out of 100 and one out of 435 and that’s stealth jihad. That’s a merciless scheme to demoralize the community, to villainize and demonize the community, for the sole purpose of making money. They’re financed by tens hundreds of millions of dollars. It’s an industry.

Where is the mercy? Right now, this hurricane, the winds died down, but the rain is coming. And they have open lagoons of pig manure and pig fetuses and pig blood from these hog farms next to African-American communities. Poor people who can’t go anywhere. They’re going to flood over. Even without flooding the spraying in the air coats their houses. They can’t breathe the air. People have respiratory problems. They have to breathe that garbage.

And the North Carolina legislature banned a bill that would even declare this a harmful practice. Where’s the mercy in that? You go up and down the ledger, there’s no mercy. There’s total exploitation of people.

Industrialized Despair

They won’t even give you a meal. You can fly on Ethiopian Airlines – one of the poorest countries in the world – you can fly from Addis Ababa to […]; they give you a hot meal, a hot towel to clean your hands with, for a two-hour flight. You fly from New York City to Los Angeles, five and a half hours, you’re lucky if you get a bag of pretzels.

When you got on the plane, the sky cab, the company is going to take their tips. Where is the mercy in all that? And they’ll tell you, “Muslim, you’re not merciful.” And then you believe it and get all demoralized. Stand up! Be proud to be a Muslim. Don’t hang your head. Don’t give those people the satisfaction of demoralizing you. Thieves and killers.

A lady, Beth Macy, wrote a book about this whole opioid epidemic recently [Dopesick] and the subtitle: “[…] the [drug] company that addicted America.” Purdue Pharma, responsible for tens of thousands of dead Americans and no one went to jail. Tens of thousands of dead people, millions of addicts, and to misdemeanor charges for false advertisement, because they said this stuff isn’t abusive.

Pure morphine repackaged is not abusive. So when the abuse rate was almost a hundred percent, “Oh, we’re guilty.” Misdemeanor on two of their executives. No one goes to jail. But all these little people, not selling heroin, selling marijuana on the street corner, are going to jail feeding this prison industrial complex. Where is the mercy in that?

Never Despair of Allah’s Mercy

And you, demoralized, believe your religion has no mercy. “Oh, my servants who are going to excess in terms of abusing the rights of their soul.” This is addressed of people who are idolaters. What does Allah say about the idolator? Allah doesn’t forgive that partners are joined with him, but he forgives any sin other than that to whomsoever he pleases. But if that idolator repents, then Allah says, even if you are an idolater, “do not despair of the mercy of Allah. Verily, Allah forgives all sins.” (Sura al Zamar 39:53)

Allah forgives the idolater. Allah forgave the man who killed 100 people. Allah forgives people. One man came, long story short, and mention his sin and he couldn’t do this, he couldn’t do that to atone. The Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, he started laughing and said, “Just scram. Get out of here.” Allah bless him and give him peace.

Your sin is one against you. You do a good deed and it’s immediately multiplied ten times. Seven thousand. Seventy thousand. Seven million. Allah is Rahim and Karim. How hard do you have to work to go to hell, if that’s how things are reckoned? One sin is one against you.

The Reason for Hope

Even if you conspire to sin and then you leave it, then it’s credited as a good deed. Leaving a bad deed is a good deed. You know, I’m gonna do this and that, masha Allah. I get home, get dressed, go call up someone. I’m gonna go visit and we’re gonna go out and … “astaghfir Allah, that’s totally haram.” That’s the good.

You left the bad deed, it’s a good deed. Don’t you say you’re a sinner. Leaving the bad deed is a good deed and so the cycle kicks in. How hard does one have to work to go to hell? This is the mercy of Allah Most High. Allah forgives all sins. What did you do? Just repent to Allah and Allah will forgive you.

Why do you have no hope? Why are you despairing of Allah’s mercy. If those are the odds and if this is the mercy of Allah, then it’s rightfully said, “It is only a disbelieving people that despair of Allah’s mercy.” (Sura Yusuf 12:87)

So believers, never despair of Allah’s mercy. Don’t walk around here in a state of doom and gloom. Lift up your head, smile in the face of your your fellow believer. Smile in the face of everybody: the ordinary people. Spread peace, spread greetings of peace to people. Feed people.

“Oh, Messenger of Allah, what is the best manifestation of Islam, the most virtuous manifestation of Islam?” “That you feed people and greet people, those you know and those you don’t know.” Our sister, in the Rainbow Rec Center, just feeding people for 20-something years. Every Saturday. It’s one of the best manifestations of Islam.

And greet people those you know and those you know not. You should be a greeting machine. Everyone you pass:

– Assalam alaykum, how you doing? Ahlan wa sahlan wa marhaban.
– What does that mean?
– That means, Hey, you’re welcome. You’re like my family.
– Really? No one ever said that to me.
– We Muslims. That’s how we roll.

Islam Is The Beautiful Religion

Pick your head up. This is a beautiful religion. Don’t despair. It’s not a believing characteristic. It’s a characteristic, as we said, of people who have no faith. Those are the people, unfortunately, falling into drugs, falling into despair, falling into suicide, falling into alcoholism. We’re the antidote. We should be going to people.

That’s why they want to demoralize the Muslims, so we don’t believe we have anything to offer anybody. “Who wants to listen to us? They all think we‘re a bunch of terrorists.” I’ll tell you who wants to listen to you, those hundreds of people every day who are taking their Shahada, all over this country. They don’t want to see that.

We have to organize ourselves to serve them. And to serve those people who aren’t Muslim. The sister feeding the people at the Rainbow Rec in East Oakland, most of those people aren’t Muslim, but they’re human beings and they have human needs.

We should be rising up and organizing ourselves to meet their needs and don’t let them politicize our religion. They’re willing to politicize it so they can frame the discussion and frame the way that they present Islam to people. No, we have to we have to spiritualize it. It’s not a political struggle.

This Is Not a Game

We. as Muslims, we do a disservice when we frame it like that, because we’re playing into their hands. It’s a spiritual struggle. It’s a struggle between truth and falsehood. It’s a struggle between people who want to victimize and exploit and destroy people, and people who want to give them life, and to give them hope, and to give them direction.

That’s the struggle and we have to keep it at that level, because that’s our strength. Everything else will take care of itself. The politics, the economics, will take care of themselves.

But if we become wrapped up into this political struggle the parameters of which have been defined by the enemies of Islam, we’ll never get to the spiritual and the people will never get the hope, because in their mind they’re looking at Islam through a frame that we as Muslims sometimes help to reinforce.

We have to frame the issue along the lines that play into our strengths. When you have one congressman and zero senators, politics is not our strength. I hope you understand that. You can hoop and holler all you want. But when those are the odds, I’m not saying there’s no politics in Islam, I’m saying that our struggle is a grassroots struggle.

Our struggle as a struggle to save people. Our struggle as a struggle to give people hope. Our struggle is a struggle to inspire people. Our struggle is a struggle to put people back in touch with their humanity. And when that happens to tens and hundreds of thousands of people, to millions of people, everything else will take care of itself. May Allah give us tawfiq.

We Are a Joyous People

Let me leave you with this verse, brothers and sisters. Allah Most High mentions in the Qur’an:

قُلْ بِفَضْلِ اللَّـهِ وَبِرَحْمَتِهِ فَبِذَٰلِكَ فَلْيَفْرَحُوا هُوَ خَيْرٌ مِّمَّا يَجْمَعُونَ

Say, [O Muhammad]: In the grace of Allah and in His mercy let them rejoice. It is better than anything they can gather [from this world.] (Sura Yunus 10:58)

We should be a joyous people. All this stuff has happened out there. Islamophobia and all this other stuff is happening. Depression, suicide, we went through the whole gamut and the first khutba. We still should be a joyous people, because we have faith in our heart, because we have belief in the Hereafter, because we know no matter how bad things get in this world, if we patiently persevere, if we struggle and we forge on, then we’re opening the gates for unimaginable bliss for the rest of eternity.

Eternal bliss. When we understand what eternity means, and we understand that everyone’s life in this world will end, young or old, rich or poor, black or white.

كُلُّ نَفْسٍ ذَائِقَةُ الْمَوْتِ ۗ وَإِنَّمَا تُوَفَّوْنَ أُجُورَكُمْ يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ ۖ فَمَن زُحْزِحَ عَنِ النَّارِ وَأُدْخِلَ الْجَنَّةَ فَقَدْ فَازَ ۗ وَمَا الْحَيَاةُ الدُّنْيَا إِلَّا مَتَاعُ الْغُرُورِ

Every soul will taste death, and you will only be given your [full] compensation on the Day of Resurrection. So he who is drawn away from the Fire and admitted to Paradise has attained [his desire]. And what is the life of this world except the enjoyment of delusion. (Sura Aal Imran 3:185)

Life Begins in The Hereafter

Everyone is going to die. Everybody’s going to die and so our life really begins when we die – in the big scheme of things, in the greater scheme of things – and once we die the gate is opened to eternity. This world is finite. Paradise and Hell are eternal.

خالدين فيها
dwelling therein forever

خَالِدِينَ فِيهَا أَبَدًا
dwelling therein forever and ever

Either Hellfire. Not forever and ever for believers, but who wants to experience a second of that? Or Janna [The Garden]. That’s what it’s all about. And Allah Most High, in giving us faith, has blessed us and placed us on a path to Janna.

We have to nurture our faith, and cultivate our faith, and rejoice in our faith. “Let them rejoice in this. I is better than anything anyone could gather from the world.” What does it mean that someone gets all the cars? They have the whole collection. They have the 1965 Mustang all the way up to their 2018 Tesla. They have them and everything in between. They got the Rolls Royce, they got the Lamborghini, you name it. They even got the Bugatti.

They got the whole lineup. They have the whole residential lineup. They have the condo at Lake Merritt. They have their chateau in the Rocky Mountains, in Aspen. They have their home in the Hamptons that they never get to. They have the whole line up from the condo to the chateau to the the house in the Hamptons. Check everything on the list. They got it.

Wardrobe. They have it all. From the alligator shoes to whatever you’re supposed, if you have money. They got it. In the house in the Hamptons they have horses they never ride. Because they never get over there. But they got the horses, too. They got the house and they got the horse.

Faith Is Proof of Allah’s Love

What does it mean if they don’t have faith? What does it mean that as soon as they get the house with the horses and they’ve checked the final check the final box on the list, they die? People are deceived into thinking all this means something.

“If this world meant to Allah as much as a gnat’s wing,” do you know how small a gnat is? If it meant a gnat’s wing “He wouldn’t have given an arrogant rejecter a single drop of water to drink.” (Tirmidhi) Allah gives it freely to whomsoever He pleases.

He gives it to the Muslim. He gives it to the person who’s not a Muslim. He gives it to the rich. He gives it to the black. He gives it to the white. He gives it to those who come who inherit it and those who get it because they can throw a ball in a basket. He gives it freely to whomever He pleases.

But He only gives faith to those He loves. That’s why the believer rejoices. May Allah give us faith that leads us to rejoice no matter what is happening in the world, because we can look beyond the world. We can look at something that transcends the world. We can look at something more valuable than the world and everything in it.


Sura al Waqi‘a Explained, Part 2 – Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

Shaykh Faraz Rabbani explains the coherence, the themes, the aims of Sura al Waqi‘a, and its relationship to other suras of the Qur’an.

To understand the key themes of Sura al Waqi‘a we have to appreciate where it is in the Qur’an. The Qur’an is not just our Holy Book, as in every religion has its Holy Book and this is ours. We have a very particular truth claim about the Qur’an.

We affirm with certitude that the Qur’an is revelation from God. All of it is revelation from God. There is nothing in it but revelation from God. And it is preserved to our day as revealed. So there’s two parts to the truth claim about the Qur’an.

The first is that the Qur’an is revelation from Allah. The second is that it is fully preserved in word and meaning to our times. It being revelation from Allah. Some of the proofs for that are mentioned in Sura al Waqi‘a.

The Challenge of the Qur’an

What is the main proof for the preservation of the Qur’an and for the Qur’an being revelation from Allah? That it’s inimitable. What is called the i‘jaz of the Qur’an. The Qur’an comes with a challenge, which is “produce the like of it.” You won’t be able to produce even some suras the like of it. Or even a little of the like of it.

The in the central proof of the Qur’an being revelation is its inimitability in its message, in its language, in its style, and rhetorical power, and in many other aspects. It cannot be matched. Allah has said, “you won’t be able to and you shall not be able to.”

The inimitability of the Qur’an has many, many aspects. Among them is the complete coherence of the Qur’an in its structure, at the level of words, verses, and suras. There is this inimitable order. You cannot take a word out of the Qur’an anywhere and replace it with another word that does the same job, let alone, one that is more suitable.

If you like reading, there are some authors who like using particular words. And you wish, if could only take that one out and replace with something, it might be more suitable here. There is no not one word you can take out from the Qur’an and replace it with another.

Likewise, coherence of the Qur’an between suras: the thematic coherence. Much has been written, even in English, on the subject of the coherence of the Qur’an. This thematic coherence is something to reflect on. When you read or recite the Qur’an and you finish one sura, ask yourself: What is the relationship between this sura and the one that comes before or after it?

Al Waqi‘a and What Precedes It

The sura that comes before Sura al Waqi‘a is Sura al Rahman; another of those most beloved suras of the Qur’an. Imam Fakhr al Din al Razi – one of the great Giants of Islamic scholarship – was a great theologian and brilliant jurist. He also gave me a terrible stomach ache because I once decided to cover Sura al Fatiha and the short suras.

I had prepared for Sura al Kawthar. I’d prepare from the mid-sized suras first, and then dip into some of the larger suras to see what were the points of benefit. I was pretty much ready for the class. I was running late. I was having lunch at about five p.m. But I needed to finish my preparation and I got a double whammy.

There’s a linguistic tafsir of Sura al Kawthar by a scholar called Al Samina al Halabi. He had twenty-two points of rhetoric (balagha) that bring out meanings of Sura al Kawthar. That started my stomach groaning. Twenty-two points! The sura is three verses!

Then I opened the tafsir of Razi and he brought forth forty meanings that are understood from “inna ataynaka al Kawthar.” (Sura al Kawthar 108:1) He goes through them and they’re all very pertinent. They’re all right there from the verse, and his tafsir is one of the greatest foundational tafsirs of Islamic scholarship.

Gratitude and Ingratitude

Imam Razi asked, what is the relationship between Sura al Rahman and Sura al Waqi‘a? Sura al Rahman, he says, mentions Allah’s blessings and is a call to gratitude. Then don’t be ungrateful. Therefore, be grateful. “So which of the blessings of your Lord would you deny?” (Sura al Rahman 55:77) Meaning, be grateful for those blessings. Surat al Waqi‘a talks about the consequences of gratitude and ingratitude. So,

Sura al Rahman highlights Allah blessings and calls to gratitude. Sura al Waqi‘a talks about the consequences for the people of gratitude, and the consequences for the ungrateful. Ingratitude is related, in our religious understanding, to disbelief, because ingratitude is a rejection of blessings, or a refusal to accept and acknowledge blessings. That is what disbelief is. Disbelief itself is a rejection, a refusal.

The second is that Sura al Rahman reminds us of blessings and of consequences. The third is that the Sura al Rahman manifests and highlights Divine Mercy, whereas Sura al Waqi‘a manifests Divine Majesty and awe. Of course, both have mercy and majesty , but there is a sense of awe and urgency in this Sura al Waqi‘a.

The Aims of Sura al Waqi‘a

What are the aims of Sura al Waqi‘a? One of the other great imams of tafsir is Imam Burhan al Din al Biqa‘i, whose tafsir, Nadhm al Durar (The Perfect Arrangement of Pearls) argues that the central aim of Sura al Waqi‘a is to remind us of the manifest power and the tremendousness of Allah Exalted and Most High, and that it is Allah who possesses all perfection, all beauty, and all majesty.

How does it do this? It begins by telling us what will happen to this world: this whole universe. This great event will befall it, which is an event external to it. This thing that seems so real will completely end. How? By the pure power of Allah exalted and Most High.

It highlights what happens in the Hereafter, and how Allah has complete dominion over the fates of His creation. Then it tells us about the reality of death and the closeness of Allah. The Sura then ends with the words: “So glorify the Name of your Lord, Most Tremendous.” (Sura al Waqi‘a 56:96) So the central theme of it is the the absolute Power and Glory of Allah, Exalted and Most High.

This is one of the reasons why many of the scholars found great benefit in helping their students develop a relationship with the Qur’an by having them recite daily and reflect on Sura al Waqi‘a.

Al Waqi‘a Among the Early Muslims

This is one of the neglected practices from many of the early Muslims, including the Sahaba. They used to focus on some verses of the Qur’an or on a particular sura until they made it a routine and a habit to reflect upon it. To really bring out the meanings of it and strive to live those meanings before moving to other verses. The ones from the earliest generations found particularly benefit in this, as we see from the example of our master And Allah ibn Mas‘ud.

Our master Uthman, the Emir of the Believers, came and says:

“What about your stipend?”
“I don’t need it. I’m dying.”
“What about your daughters?”
“They don’t need it either.”
“Why?”
“Because I told them to recite Sura al Waqi‘a.”

It’s not just a spiritual thing: that there’s a spiritual benefit in it. If you realize the meanings in the sura you will know how to direct yourself in life.

Categories of People on the Day of Judgment

One of the great Imams of tafsir in the history of Islamic scholarship was a great twentieth century Muslim scholar from modern-day Tunisia, Imam Tahir ibn Ashur. He died, I think, in the early 1970s. His thirty volume work, Al Tahrir wa al Tanwir, is one of the greatest works of tafsir ever written.

He says of the central themes of Sura al Waqi‘a, firstly, is a reminder of the reality of resurrection. You will be resurrected. That day is a day of judgment where you will be taken to account. And you are in one of three categories. There are levels of people and they have promised reward and punishment. So be aware of that be aware of that.

There there are only three sets of people. You could be in some grade amongst those three categories, but there are three spectrums in which people are. You are somewhere there and where you end up will be according to the choices that you make in this life. The underlying theme of the sura is the power of Allah the power, might, and majesty of Allah in all things.

Hereafter or Here and Now

One of the remarkable 20th century scholars, Shaykh Sa‘id Hawa, a Syrian scholar who was then exiled in Jordan, wrote a wonderful tafsir – Al Asas fi al Tafsir (The Foundation of Tafsir) – and he also talked a lot about the coherence of the Qur’an.

Many of the early Muslims said, and this is also related from Abd Allah ibn Abbas, that all of the meanings of the Qur’an are summarized in Sura al Baqara; and all of the meanings of Sura al Baqara are to be found in Sura al Fatiha. So he does this sort of mapping of the key themes of the Qur’an.

He makes a beautiful point in his tafsir. He says that the central aim of Sura al Waqi‘a is not about they Hereafter. It is about the here and now. Because you can’t do anything about the Hereafter itself. No, what you can do is act in this life in a manner that will get you to the right eternal destination.

The Stations of Success

For every call, every mention of the Hereafter in the Qur’an, the underlying message of it is to live in this life in a manner that will get you to those stations of the people of success, and that will keep you from the stations of the people of loss.

The central theme of Sura al Waqi‘a, then, is a call to worship of Allah Exalted and Most High. A call to be mindful of Allah. A call to righteous action: to feel a deep sense of urgency with respect to the need to turn to Allah, to worship Allah, to be mindful of Allah, and to embrace righteous deeds that will get you to the Hereafter.


Resources for Seekers

Sura al Waqi‘a Explained, Part 1 – Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

In this first part of Shaykh Faraz Rabbani’s explanation, we learn about the effect of Sura al Waqi‘a on the Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him, and his Companions.

Sura al Waqi‘a is one of the most beloved suras of the Qur’an. It has a comprehensive summary of key themes. It is also one of the most dramatic suras in its message that conveys a great sense of urgency from beginning till end.

This is why the scholars and the righteous from the earliest times till our times have placed great emphasis and found tremendous benefit in this sura. So much so that some of the scholars of the spiritual path would tell students to recite it daily, sometimes even twice a day, because of what it it contains of meanings that remind us of the urgency of this life.

Some of those who are reductionist in their religious outlook say nothing has been related about the virtues of Sura al Waqi‘a. That is a type of religious blindness, because much has been related about Sura al Waqi‘a, both from the Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him, as well as from the Companions and the early generations.

It Makes the Hair Gray

One of the great early Muslims, Imam Masruq, said that whoever seeks to have all knowledge possessed by all peoples of the first communities and the last, and the knowledge of this life and the next, should recite Sura al Waqi‘a, because it contains all the knowledge that truly matters.

This is not a light saying. If we look at the Sunna of the Prophet, blessings and peace upon him, we see that the Prophet, blessings and peace upon him, did not develop gray hair till very late in his life. But then suddenly his hair started going gray.

The Companions noticed that some of his hair started growing gray so they asked him about it. The Prophet, blessings and peace upon him, explained that it was there was a number of suras that made his hair grow gray. He said, blessings and peace upon him, that his hair was made gray by Sura Hud 11, al Waqi‘a, al Mursalat, al Naba’a, and al Takwir.

These are from the mid-sized suras whose central theme is the reality and urgency of the hereafter. Of course it is not the sura that made the hair go gray, but its message. This message was so profound that it it had a physical effect on the Prophet, blessings and peace upon him.

It Shields Against Poverty

It is related from Uthman ibn Affan that he entered upon Abd Allah ibn Mas‘ud in his final illness. Uthman asked, “What ails you?” He said, “My sins.” Uthman asked, “What do you long for?” He said, “The mercy of my Lord.” Uthman asked, “Should we not call the doctor?” He said, “The doctor made me sick.”

Uthman asked, “So should we arrange your stipend?” He said, “I don’t need it.” Uthman asked, “Should we not apportion it for your daughters?” He said, “My daughters have no need for the state stipend.” Uthman was surprised because everyone is concerned about their children.

Abd Allah ibn Mas‘ud, noting his wonderment, then said, “My daughter’s don’t have any need for that stipend. I have ordered them to recite Sura al Waqi‘a for I have heard the Messenger of Allah, Blessings and peace be upon him, say, “Whoever recites Sura al Waqi‘a every day will not be affected by poverty or neediness.”

The Narrations and Its Acceptance

The hadith as ascribed to the Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him, has weakness in it. But this hadith has been related from many of the Companions, with many different narrations. Some of them ascribing it to the Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him. Some of them from their own words.

Many of the Imams both early and late generally held that there is a sunna basis to affirming

    1. 1) a special virtue for Sura al Waqi‘a and

 

    2) that Sura al Waqi‘a is a protection from neediness.

From that is what is related by Imam al Bayhaqi and also from Abd Allah ibn Mas‘ud, that the Messenger of Allah, blessings and peace be upon him, said, “Whoever recites Sura al Waqi‘a every night will not be affected by neediness, ever.” It is similarly related from Ibn Abbas and others.

Anas relates that the Messenger of Allah, blessings and peace be upon him, that the Messenger of Allah, blessings and peace be upon him, said, “Sura al Waqi‘a is the enriching [the one that frees of need] so recite it, and teach it to your children.”

This too has some weakness in it: in its ascription to the Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him. But you see that it is widespread amongst the early Muslims, particularly the Companions and the Followers (Tabi‘in).

If you look in the Musannaf of Ibn Abi Shayba and other such compendiums which have a lot of the narrations from the early Muslims, you see many, many narrations on the virtue and importance of Sura al Waqi‘a and it being a freeing of need.

The wisdom of these virtues that were narrated and accepted goes back to the themes of Sura al Waqi‘a.


Resources for Seekers

The Great Event: Sura al Waqi’a Explained – Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

Shaykh Faraz Rabbani gives a thematic study of this Sura, its explanation (tafsir), key lessons, and how to grow one’s relationship with Allah through deepening one’s understanding and relationship with this great Sura.

Sura al Waqi’ah is one of the most beloved and most recited Suras of the Qur’an. This is because of the sense of urgency and opportunity it conveys.

This Sura has three main themes:

The Resurrection

The first theme, found in verses 1-56, described the amazing awe-inspiring power of the Resurrection, as well as the various stations which all people will be in.

The resurrection is a reality. It has been said, “If the light of faith were in your heart, the hereafter would be so real that you wouldn’t feel the need to travel to it.” There are two types of disbelief in the Hereafter; the explicit denial, and lesser denial. The latter involves a lifestyle that does not act as if the Hereafter exists. We should nurture a sense of reality of the hereafter, to give us the sense of urgency that we need to ensure that we take this life seriously.

Proofs of the Resurrection

The second theme, found in verses 57-80, speak about the rational proofs of the Resurrection.

Modern science usually argues that there is no Creator, However, we believe that things cannot create themselves, and we have many proofs in the Qur’an and in other places. The human being is like a plant, nurtured by reflection and watered by remembrance. If bereft of these, the faith could shrivel and die. Therefore, we have a duty to learn more about our beliefs. If a society isn’t firmly rooted in their faith, the faith can leave when in testing times.

During and After Death

The third theme, from verses 81-96, speaks about the state of a person during and after death.

After death, there are many types of people. The ones brought near, will have joy and ease in Paradise. There will also be those of the right hand, who will be greeted with good. As for the one who denied, they will be in Hellfire.

All  blessings are from Allah, even life itself. We must respond to these blessings while we still have time. However, Allah asks us why we only look at these blessings when we are close to dying, or when we see someone else die, even though Allah is closer to us than anyone else.  Closeness to Allah is not an issue of distance, but in the sense that He sustains everything, at all times.


Resources for Seekers

What is Death? – Shaykh Hamza Karamali

In this new series, Remembering Death and the Afterlife, Shaykh Hamza Karamali addresses a topic that does not appeal to our western sensibilities, yet is of great significance to the life of faith.

Allah Most High says in the Qur’an:

Every soul will, without doubt, fully experience death. (3:185, 21:35, and 29:57)

We will all die. You will die, I will die, and everyone that we know – all will die. But what exactly does it mean to die? What is death?

When we die, we stop breathing, our heart stops beating, our brain’s electrical impulses stop, our joints become stiff, our body grows cold, stops moving, and starts to decay. When our body changes like this, we die. But even though these bodily changes always accompany death, none of them is the “full experience of death” that Allah Most High mentions in the Qur’an.

Death and the Experience of It

The ending of breathing accompanies death, but it is not the experience of death itself. The ending of our heartbeat accompanies our deaths, but it is not our experience of death itself. The ending of our brain activity, the stiffening of our joints, and our bodies growing cold all accompany our deaths, but they are not our experience of death.

Bodily changes such as these always accompany our conscious experiences. But when we observe ourselves, we know — clearly, immediately, and without any inference — that these bodily changes are not identical to our conscious experiences.

Our experience of happiness is accompanied by increasing levels of the hormones dopamine and serotonin, but the increased levels of those hormones is not what our happiness is. Our experience of stress is accompanied by increasing levels of the hormone cortisol, but those increased levels of cortisol are not what our stress is.

We are not our bodily changes. We are not our bodies. We are our souls.

Strange Thing, This Soul

Our soul is a strange thing — we cannot see it, touch it, or measure it, but we clearly know that it is there. We know that our happiness, our stress, our hope, our fear, our gratitude, our love, are not our bodily changes, but experiences that take place in our souls, apart from, different from, distinct from the changes in our bodies.

Let’s return now to the question of this post: “What is death?” The answer to this question depends on what happens to our souls — our selves, in other words — when we die. We know that when someone dies, their lungs stop breathing, their hearts stop beating, their brains stop pulsing, their joints become stiff, their bodies grow cold and start decaying.

But we don’t know what happens to their souls because their souls are apart from, different from, distinct from their bodies, and the ones who die are their souls, not their bodies. We don’t know what happens to their souls. We don’t know what happens to them.

Two Logical Possibilities

There are two possibilities. Either they — their souls, in other words — stop existing when their bodily functions stop and they die, or they — their souls, in other words — continue to exist, persisting beyond their bodies into another kind of life.

There is no scientific evidence for or against either possibility. This not a question that science can answer because no scientist can conduct any repeatable experiment to tell us what someone experiences when they die. A repeatable experiment to find out what really happens when someone dies would look something like this.

Take a hundred people. Let them die. Then ask them what happened. The problem, as you can see, is that once they die, they no longer speak to us. They cannot tell us what happened. When a scientist or a doctor or anyone else claims that death is the end of our existence, they are making a claim in haste and without any evidence to support it.

Death Is A Transition

The Prophet Muhammad, Allah bless him and give him peace, told us that our deaths are a movement from this life into another life, into a life that will last forever, a life in which we will be called to account for our belief and deeds in this life, and that our purpose in this life is to prepare ourselves for that everlasting life.

Those who disbelieved in him turned away, and claimed (in the words of Allah Most High in the Holy Qur’an) that, “It [i.e., life] is nothing more than this life of ours in this world, living and dying, nothing destroying us except the passage of time.” (Sura al Jathiya 45:24) Allah Most High explained also in the words of the Holy Qur’an that those who make such a claim “have no genuine knowledge of that at all: they are merely surmising.” (Sura al Jathiya 45:24) The claim that our deaths are the end of our existence is an empty claim, unsupported by any evidence at all.

When the Prophet Muhammad, Allah bless him and give him peace, on the other hand, told us that our deaths are a movement from this life into another life, he had evidence for what he said. Allah Most High confirmed his genuine messengerhood with dozens of physical miracles during his lifetime. With the miracle of the Qur’an — its linguistic miracle, its scientific miracle, and its accurate prediction of future events.

The Prophet’s knowledge, Allah bless him and give him peace, of the scriptures of the Jews and Christians, his vast knowledge of how to organize societies, how to trade, how to judge, and how to govern, all in spite of his being unlettered, his sublime character, selflessness, is all abundant evidence that the revelations that he conveyed could only have been from Allah Most High.

The Door to Everlasting Life

When the Prophet Muhammad, Allah bless him and give him peace, tells us about death, he is telling us what Allah Most High, the one who makes us live and makes us die, told him. Allah Most High told us through him that death is something that we “fully experience” and a “full experience” is only possible if we continue to exist as we die. In subsequent episodes of this series, I will relate and explain many other Qur’anic verses and prophetic hadiths that describe what happens after we die.

The upshot of those verses and hadiths, in the words of ‘Umar ibn ‘Abd al-’Aziz, Allah Most High have mercy on him, is that: “You were created forever [and when you die you don’t stop existing] but are moved from one abode into another abode.”

Death is not nonexistence. Death is not annihilation. Death is the interruption of your soul’s connection with your body. Death is a change of your soul’s state. Death is a movement of your soul from one abode into another abode.

The purpose of your living a life that ends with death is for you to lift your gaze beyond this transient life into the next everlasting one, for you to avoid the foolish mistake of living for a world that you will leave behind you when we pass through the door of your death into your everlasting life.

If Allah Most High gives me life until the next post, I will, if He wills, explain that further.


This post is taken from the first episode of the podcast series: Remembering Death and the Afterlife with Shaykh Hamza Karamali.


Sura al Kahf: Dhul Qarnayn and Tawfiq – Shaykh Walead Mosaad

Shaykh Walead explains the story of Dhul Qarnayn and highlights the key lessons and significant themes from which we can learn.

The last parable in Sura al Kahf talks about Dhul Qarnayn.

وَيَسْأَلُونَكَ عَن ذِي الْقَرْنَيْنِ ۖ قُلْ سَأَتْلُو عَلَيْكُم مِّنْهُ ذِكْرًا

They ask you concerning Dhul Qarnayn. Say: “I shall recite to you remembrance of him.” (Sura al Kahf 18:83)

Dhul Qarnayn was someone who was given power and sulta (lordship) and he presided over the East and the West. That caused many of the scholars to conclude there was no person history who was actually able to do that – if indeed it was a man – except for someone like Alexander the Great.

Again, it’s not a not a tenant of faith that it was Alexander the Great. We just know that he is referred to as Dhul Qarnayn in the Qur’an. Different reasons are given as to why he was called that. The word qarn actually means horn. One narration is that he had two or four braids of hair that looked like two horns, and that’s why he was given that name.

The Rank of Dhul Qarnayn

Some say that when he goes between East and West there is symbolically one horn in the East and one in the West. Most of the narrations say that he was not a prophet, even though some mentioned he could have been. He was a good man either way and he was more like a king than a prophet.

Or he could have been a prophet-king in much the same way that Sulayman, peace be upon him, was. But again, it’s the moral of the story that we{re looking at rather than the details of it.

إِنَّا مَكَّنَّا لَهُ فِي الْأَرْضِ وَآتَيْنَاهُ مِن كُلِّ شَيْءٍ سَبَبًا

We made him strong in the land and given him the means to all things [he wishes to achieve]. (Sura al Kahf 18:84)

The Firmness of His Belief

Allah uses the term: tamkin. It is one of those things that is not necessarily good, not necessarily bad. It’s like wealth. It means having the ability and the power to pretty much achieve anything that you want to. That can be a blessing and that can be a curse. If it is used in the right way it is a blessing. If it is used in the wrong way it is a curse.

To have that level of power and sulta to just move your finger and people run and ask you what you want could be a power or a blessing or it could be a curse. But this is what Dhul Qarnayn was given.

فَأَتْبَعَ سَبَبًا

And he took to the road. (Sura al Kahf 18:85)

حَتَّىٰ إِذَا بَلَغَ مَغْرِبَ الشَّمْسِ وَجَدَهَا تَغْرُبُ فِي عَيْنٍ حَمِئَةٍ وَوَجَدَ عِندَهَا قَوْمًا ۗ قُلْنَا يَا ذَا الْقَرْنَيْنِ إِمَّا أَن تُعَذِّبَ وَإِمَّا أَن تَتَّخِذَ فِيهِمْ حُسْنًا

Till, when he reached the setting-place of the sun, he found it setting in a muddy spring, and found a people thereabout. We said: O Dhul Qarnayn! Either punish or show them kindness. (Sura al Kahf 18:86)

In other words, if you’re going to conquer these people either deal with them with kindness or deal with them by punishing them if they don’t submit. Obviously back then we’re talking about a different understanding of relationships between people and how things will run.

Remember we’re not talking about the Sharia of the Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him. Rather, we’re talking about something that precedes it by a millennium, if not more.

قَالَ أَمَّا مَن ظَلَمَ فَسَوْفَ نُعَذِّبُهُ ثُمَّ يُرَدُّ إِلَىٰ رَبِّهِ فَيُعَذِّبُهُ عَذَابًا نُّكْرًا

He said: As for him who does wrong, we shall punish him, and then he will be brought back unto his Lord, Who will punish him with awful punishment! (Sura al Kahf 18:87)

وَأَمَّا مَنْ آمَنَ وَعَمِلَ صَالِحًا فَلَهُ جَزَاءً الْحُسْنَىٰ ۖ وَسَنَقُولُ لَهُ مِنْ أَمْرِنَا يُسْرًا

But as for him who believes and do right, good will be his reward, and We shall speak unto him a mild command. (Sura al Kahf 18:88)

ثُمَّ أَتْبَعَ سَبَبًا

And he took to the road. (Sura al Kahf 18:89)

حَتَّىٰ إِذَا بَلَغَ مَطْلِعَ الشَّمْسِ وَجَدَهَا تَطْلُعُ عَلَىٰ قَوْمٍ لَّمْ نَجْعَل لَّهُم مِّن دُونِهَا سِتْرًا

Till, when he reached the rising-place of the sun, he found it rising on a people for whom We had appointed no shelter therefrom. (Sura al Kahf 18:90)

The Peoples of East and West

It is said that he ran into these people and then he moves on. Alexander the great crossed from east to west and that everything including sunrise and sunset was under the salta: under the power of Dhul Qarnayn.

The first people he reached was were more advanced. They had homes, rooms, and roofs over their heads. And their way of life was relatively easy.

The second group of people he reached at the rising place of the Sun – in other words, the East – were a people who had no permanent shelter, but were perhaps nomads.

Much in the same way that the Arabs of the Arabian Peninsula were nomads in many parts of the peninsula, whereas in Mecca and in Medina they were sedentary.

كَذَٰلِكَ وَقَدْ أَحَطْنَا بِمَا لَدَيْهِ خُبْرًا

So (it was). And We knew all concerning him. (Sura al Kahf 18:91)

ثُمَّ أَتْبَعَ سَبَبًا

And he took to the road. (Sura al Kahf 18:92)

That is, he left again or he took further means.

حَتَّىٰ إِذَا بَلَغَ بَيْنَ السَّدَّيْنِ وَجَدَ مِن دُونِهِمَا قَوْمًا لَّا يَكَادُونَ يَفْقَهُونَ قَوْلً

Till, when he came between the two mountains, he found upon their near side a folk that scarce could understand a word. (Sura al Kahf 18:93)

The People of the Valley

The word al saddayn means something that blocks, but in this particular context it means the two mountains: a valley, essentially. The mountains were so close together that you can actually build a dam or build like a gate to protect the area between the two mountains.

He came upon these people and they couldn’t understand one another because their languages were mutually unintelligible. They spoke no common language. They had to resort to sign language and hands and writing in the sand and so on.

قَالُوا يَا ذَا الْقَرْنَيْنِ إِنَّ يَأْجُوجَ وَمَأْجُوجَ مُفْسِدُونَ فِي الْأَرْضِ فَهَلْ نَجْعَلُ لَكَ خَرْجًا عَلَىٰ أَن تَجْعَلَ بَيْنَنَا وَبَيْنَهُمْ سَدًّ

They said: O Dhul Qarnayn! Gog and Magog are spoiling the land. So may we pay you tribute on condition that you set a barrier between us and them? (Sura al Kahf 18:94)

These are the same tribes of the people of the hour. We don’t know exactly who they are. They are said to originate somewhere in the Far East, from the Mongolian steppes or wherever it might be.

They are conquerors, but they do it in a way where they they destroy people. So these people offer to pay some type of tribute on the condition that Dhul Qarnayn set a barrier between them and Gog and Magog.

قَالَ مَا مَكَّنِّي فِيهِ رَبِّي خَيْرٌ فَأَعِينُونِي بِقُوَّةٍ أَجْعَلْ بَيْنَكُمْ وَبَيْنَهُمْ رَدْمًا

He said: That wherein my Lord has established for me is better [than your tribute]. But help me with strength [of men in your numbers] and I will set between you and them a barrier. (Sura al Kahf 18:95)

آتُونِي زُبَرَ الْحَدِيدِ ۖ حَتَّىٰ إِذَا سَاوَىٰ بَيْنَ الصَّدَفَيْنِ قَالَ انفُخُوا ۖ حَتَّىٰ إِذَا جَعَلَهُ نَارًا قَالَ آتُونِي أُفْرِغْ عَلَيْهِ قِطْرًا

Give me pieces of iron – till, when he had leveled up [the gap] between the cliffs, he said: Blow! – till, when he had made it a fire, he said: Bring me molten copper to pour thereon. (Sura al Kahf 18:96)

فَمَا اسْطَاعُوا أَن يَظْهَرُوهُ وَمَا اسْتَطَاعُوا لَهُ نَقْبًا

And [Gog and Magog] were not able to surmount it, nor could they pierce [it]. (Sura al Kahf 18:97)

قَالَ هَـٰذَا رَحْمَةٌ مِّن رَّبِّي ۖ فَإِذَا جَاءَ وَعْدُ رَبِّي جَعَلَهُ دَكَّاءَ ۖ وَكَانَ وَعْدُ رَبِّي حَقًّا

He said: This is a mercy from my Lord; but when the promise of my Lord cometh to pass, He will turn it to dust, for the promise of my Lord is true. (Sura al Kahf 18:98)

وَتَرَكْنَا بَعْضَهُمْ يَوْمَئِذٍ يَمُوجُ فِي بَعْضٍ ۖ وَنُفِخَ فِي الصُّورِ فَجَمَعْنَاهُمْ جَمْعًا

And on that day we shall let some of them surge against others, and the Trumpet will be blown. Then We shall gather them together in one gathering. (Sura al Kahf 18:99)

The Tawfiq of Dhul Qarnayn

He built a wall like any other wall. They couldn’t get over it. In other words, they tried. And nor could they pierce it. Nor could they scale it. It was too high.

Notice the difference between how Dhul Qarnayn views this work, and how the one with the two gardens, viewed his. The latter said: “This is for me and it will never go away. I don’t think I’d find anything better.” And he put no effort into it or very little effort.

Now look at this. This is a completely man-made structure. It’s not like the garden that had the river flowing in between and things were just happening so easily. It took a lot of labor.One would think that it probably took months if not longer to build this wall.

Nevertheless, Dhul Qarnayn says: This is a mercy from Allah, but if the promise of my Lord comes to pass on that day when everything will be destroyed it will be destroyed. I was just a tool. I helped to bring about that which Allah has promised. And the promise of my Lord is true.


This lesson by Shaykh Walead Mosaad is part of the On Demand Course: Giving Life to Sura Al Kahf, in which Shaykh Walead explains the key lessons of Sura al Kahf: the four great stories in it and the four great tests they represent. Namely the tests of faith, wealth, knowledge, and power. Download the entire lesson-set here.

View other SeekersHub On Demand Courses here.


Khoja Nasruddin on Prayer

Khoja Nasruddin clarifies what happens when one confuses the made with the Maker in prayer, and in many other things.

One day Khoja Nasruddin had some business that took him to Bursa. He had a specific problem concerning his business which he could not solve.

A friend therefore advised him, saying, “Since you will be in Bursa anyway, go to Ulu Masjid and pray there. Pray, earnestly, in front of the mihrab, every morning asking for a solution to your problem, and it will be solved.

Khoja Nasruddin did as his friend advised. For forty days he prayed and made supplication in front of the mihrab without fail. His prayers were not answered.

A few days later, Khoja Nasruddin was still in Bursa, and his problem was still unsolved. He walked into Orhan Masjid, a smaller, less ornate mosque a few blocks from Ulu Masjid.

He prayed there and all his business problems were solved on the same day. His prayer was heard and answered.

Khoja Nasruddin went back to Ulu Masjid and cried out: “You ought to be ashamed, you big, fancy masjid! Your simple little neighbor managed in one day what you could not do in forty!”

 


Ask in the Presence of Allah – Dr Shadee Elmasry

Dr Shadee Elmasry recounts the narration on the reduction of prayers from fifty to five and lists nine things we can learn from this.

In the Isra and Miraj, the Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him, tells us:

Then the prayers were enjoined on me: they were fifty prayers a day. When I returned, I passed by Moses, who asked: “What have you been ordered to do?” I replied: “I have been ordered to offer fifty prayers a day.” Moses said: “Your followers cannot bear fifty prayers a day, and by Allah I have tested people before you, and I have tried my best with Bani Israel (in vain). Go back to your Lord and ask for reduction to lessen your followers’ burden.” So I went back, and Allah reduced ten prayers for me. Then again I came to Moses, but he repeated the same as he had said before. Then again I went back to Allah, and He reduced ten more prayers. When I came back to Moses he said the same. I went back to Allah, and He ordered me to observe ten prayers a day. When I came back to Moses, he repeated the same advice, so I went back to Allah and was ordered to observe five prayers a day. He told me to go for a further reduction, but I was ashamed to ask for more.

Why did Allah go through all of this when he knew what the final number would be? Why not just ordain five from the start? What is this supposed to teach us?

Nine Points of Learning

1. It is supposed to teach us the approachability of Allah. That he is approachable with our dua. That we should never stop returning to Him asking for ease and mercy even if over and over again.

2. It also demonstrates the importance of the prayer, for we were asked for fifty a day, a very large number.

3. It also puts on display the importance of asking those who have experience. In this case, the prophet who is about to lead a nation, asking the prophet who already led a nation.

4. It also shows the compassion the Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him, had for his umma, for he went back and forth quite a number of times, all for his concern with our well being.

5. It also shows the generosity of Allah with the umma of the Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him, for even though we are doing only five, we are getting the reward of fifty, since one good deed is rewarded ten times over.

6. It shows that things unfold slowly, for the decrease did not go from 50 to 5 right away, but rather through steps and stages, for which we need diligence and patience.

7. So that the believers can feel the blessing of the reduction. If a mu’min feels the burden of five prayers a day, he feels relief knowing that it was originally fifty.

8. It is a gift to Prophet Musa, peace be upon him, that he was given the opportunity to show his concern for us and decrease the burden from off of Allah’s most beloved umma. Every individual Muslim is now indebted to him for this great ease which we experience daily. Our payment of that debt is recognizing his favor and increasing in our love for him.

9. It shows that the Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him, could enter the Divine presence at will.

And Allah knows best.


Dr Shadee Elmasry was born and raised in New Jersey. He began studying at the age of eighteen, traveling to a number of countries including Egypt, KSA, Yemen and Morocco.

In addition to traditional learning, Dr Elmasry has received has an MA from The George Washington University and a PhD from the University of London SOAS.

Dr Elmasry went on to teach at several universities including Yale University, University of London SOAS, Trinity College, Hartford Seminary, and Manhattanville College.

Currently, he serves as Scholar in Residence at the New Brunswick Islamic Center in New Jersey. He is also the founder and head of Safina Society — an institution dedicated to the cause of traditional Islamic education in the West.


The Science of the Heart – Safina Society Podcast

The Safina Society team is joined by Mufti Niaz Hannan and Yusuf Hussain to discuss Tasawwuf, what it is, why it is needed, and how to recognize it.

With these two final episodes, the Safina Society team close out their season on a wonderful, warm, engaging, and lively discussion of Tasawwuf.

What it is. What it isn’t. Its sources, roots, methods, proofs, and fruits. Why we need this knowledge. How to understand this “science of the heart.”

They also give concrete and heart-awakening examples of common people in our communities who, knowingly or not, “truly [are] what we would call, the people of Tasawwuf.”

 

With gratitude to Safina Society.


Sura al Kahf: Musa, Khidr and Knowledge – Shaykh Walead Mosaad

Shaykh Walead explains the story of Musa and Khidr, peace be upon them. He highlights the key lessons from the story and its major theme.

Now we get to the parable of Musa and of Khidr, peace be upon them. Tribulation with one’s knowledge – what one thinks one knows. It’s mentioned that Musa, peace be upon him, that he believes that or he believed that there was no one more knowledgeable than he. And then Allah directed him to “a servant among our servants” where he might learn something that he did not know.

Another narration says that the Prophet Musa, peace be upon him, said that if there is someone who is more knowledgeable than me, then Allah lead me to him. I want to meet him, so that I may learn from him.

The River and the Ocean

Musa, peace be upon him, is of the five considered to be the five greatest prophets and messengers. The other four being Ibrahim, Nuh, Isa, and Muhammad, peace be upon them. So we can’t say that Khidr overall was greater than Musa, who also was sent as a messenger, peace be upon them.

The most that they say about Khidr is that he was a prophet, and even that is a point of contention. Not everybody agrees that he was a prophet. In other words, that he received revelation. So how is it then that Musa, peace be upon him, can learn something from someone who overall is less than he is. That’s the whole point of the story.

Sometimes you can find things in the river you don’t find in the ocean. If Khidr was a river he certainly had things that Musa did not have. The three things that Khidr did and then the justifications of why he did them cannot be understood in terms of outward aspects of Islamic law – or the Shari‘a. They can’t be reconciled.

Outer Form, Inner Truth

That’s why Musa had the objections that he did, peace be upon him. He had to object because from the outward aspect of it there’s no way they could be justified. But then Khidr shows him that inwardly there is a reason.

Allah Most High says:

وَإِذْ قَالَ مُوسَىٰ لِفَتَاهُ لَا أَبْرَحُ حَتَّىٰ أَبْلُغَ مَجْمَعَ الْبَحْرَيْنِ أَوْ أَمْضِيَ حُقُبًا

And when Moses said to his servant, “I will not give up until I reach the meeting of the two seas, though I go on for many years.” (Sura al Kahf 18:60)

It said that the servant was a great-grandson of Yusuf, peace be upon him. His name is Yusha (Joshua). He was in the court of Al Aziz – the court of Pharaoh in Egypt. He was with Musa, peace be upon him.

When he says: “I will not give up until I reach the meeting of the two seas.” He had received revelation from Allah that this is where you may find him. No one knows exactly where that is. Different opinions have been given.

Some have said that it’s where the two rivers meet between Azerbaijan and Armenia. Another opinion says that it’s actually where the Strait of Gibraltar is, which would be where the Mediterranean Sea meets the Atlantic Ocean.

Meeting of the Two Seas

It’s not the important aspect of the story but there was an appointed place where they were supposed to meet so they go.

فَلَمَّا بَلَغَا مَجْمَعَ بَيْنِهِمَا نَسِيَا حُوتَهُمَا فَاتَّخَذَ سَبِيلَهُ فِي الْبَحْرِ سَرَبًا

Then, when they reached their meeting point, they forgot their fish, and it took its way into the sea, being free. (Sura al Kahf 18:61)

One of the things that Musa, peace be upon him, received as revelation is that when you reach the point of the two oceans or the two seas, you will lose your fish that you brought as provision to eat. Then you will know that is where to find him because he doesn’t find you, you find him.

This shows you adab al ‘ilm: that the seeker goes and finds the teacher, not that the teacher goes and finds the student. Musa, peace be upon him, is the one who went out forth even though he is the prophet and the greatest messenger living on the face of the earth of the at the time, which would make him the greatest human being living on the face of the earth at the time. Yet he is the one who’s going to seek not the one to be sought.

Prophet, Teacher and Student

So even though some some people may be teachers they’re also always going to be students. It’s not a mutually exclusive thing. Every teacher is a student, although not every student is a teacher.

فَلَمَّا جَاوَزَا قَالَ لِفَتَاهُ آتِنَا غَدَاءَنَا لَقَدْ لَقِينَا مِن سَفَرِنَا هَـٰذَا نَصَبًا

When they had passed over, he said to his page, “Bring us our breakfast; indeed, we have found weariness in our journey.” (Sura al Kahf 18:62)

قَالَ أَرَأَيْتَ إِذْ أَوَيْنَا إِلَى الصَّخْرَةِ فَإِنِّي نَسِيتُ الْحُوتَ وَمَا أَنسَانِيهُ إِلَّا الشَّيْطَانُ أَنْ أَذْكُرَهُ ۚ وَاتَّخَذَ سَبِيلَهُ فِي الْبَحْرِ عَجَبًا

He said, “Did you see? When we took refuge in the rock, then I forgot the fish, and it was Satan himself that made me forget it so that I should not mention it – and it took its way into the sea in a marvelous manner.” (Sura al Kahf 18:63)

قَالَ ذَٰلِكَ مَا كُنَّا نَبْغِ ۚ فَارْتَدَّا عَلَىٰ آثَارِهِمَا قَصَصًا

He [Musa] said, “This is what we were seeking!” And so they retraced their steps. (Sura al Kahf 18:64)

In other words that was the sign that Must, peace be upon him, was waiting for from Allah Most High.

فَوَجَدَا عَبْدًا مِّنْ عِبَادِنَا آتَيْنَاهُ رَحْمَةً مِّنْ عِندِنَا وَعَلَّمْنَاهُ مِن لَّدُنَّا عِلْمًا

Then they found one of Our servants unto whom We had given mercy from Us, and We taught him knowledge from Our Presence. (Sura al Kahf 18:65)

A Servant of Allah

This ‘abd: Khidr, peace be upon him, is described again as a servant of Allah. This could mean he that was a prophet. Again there is a difference of opinion. It seems that he could not have known what he knew except by revelation. That would give credibility to the idea that he was a prophet. In all likelihood he probably was.

Allah says: “unto whom We had given mercy from Us, and We taught him knowledge from Our Presence.” Mercy and knowledge go hand in hand, because if your knowledge doesn’t need lead you to mercy it will lead to poison and destruction.

That which is powerful of itself – and there’s nothing more powerful than knowledge, than to know – if it’s not coupled with or tempered by mercy, it could be destructive rather than productive. That is often what happens. Knowledge can be used for very destructive ways.

A Mercy from Allah

Even knowledge of the religion can be very destructive. People can use it as a hammer to beat people into submission, rather than as an tool of mercy as was originally intended. Now Khidr had both, which means that any of the things that he did, even if we don’t understand them outwardly, were still done by Allah’s mercy.

The type of knowledge that Khidr, peace be upon him, had was not a taught knowledge. He didn’t learn it from anybody. No one taught it to him. This is referred to as al ‘ilm al ladunni, which is directly inspired knowledge from Allah Most High, of which any human being can avail themselves.

You don’t have to be a prophet. Allah can inspire you to do things or can put things in you: knowledge or epiphanies or realizations of things that you didn’t realize before.

It could be reflection on a verse. It could be a particular circumstance or situation in your life. Years later or even at the time you see the wisdom of why it happened the way it happened. Things like these are things Allah can can give you as gifts.

Knowledge and Illumination

Khidr’s ‘ilm was ladunni. So was Musa’s knowledge, peace be upon them. Musa, peace be upon him, was a prophet and a messenger. He received revelation but he was also a messenger with what we call the Shari‘a.

Usually when we talk about Shari‘a in this sense, it means that which regulates outward acts. What we call the dhahir: things that you do outwardly, or the manner by which you do them. for example, the prayer ritual, the manner by which you fast, what days and when, and the manner of determining who is eligible for zakat and who is not, and interactions and commercial transactions. All those things we understand by the term Shari‘a.

And the Shari‘a is always underlined by something else called the haqiqa. That is a bit of Sufi terminology but they use it to describe the practice and implementation of the Shari‘a, which is then called tariqa: walking the way or following the way.

This will lead you to this thing called haqiqa, which is the unveiling and cognition of why things happen the way they do and the reality behind things. And the knowledge of Khidr, peace be upon him, is as if it was concentrated more on the haqiqa than the Shari‘a, because he did things that in at least two cases contravened the Shari‘a.

Fear of the Unknown

You would say, if he didn’t know better: That’s haram! How could you do that? You’ve made a transgression! That is why Musa, peace be upon him, objects. And Khidr, peace be upon him, tells him at the beginning: You’re not going to be patient enough with me. You’re going to object, but we’ll do it anyway and we’ll see how that turns out.

So then Musa, peace be upon him, says to Khidr in the next verse:

قَالَ لَهُ مُوسَىٰ هَلْ أَتَّبِعُكَ عَلَىٰ أَن تُعَلِّمَنِ مِمَّا عُلِّمْتَ رُشْدًا

Moses said to him, “Shall I follow you so that you teach me, of what you have been taught [by Allah] of right judgment.” (Sura al Kahf 18:66)

قَالَ إِنَّكَ لَن تَسْتَطِيعَ مَعِيَ صَبْرًا

Said he [Khidr], “Surely you will not be able to bear with me patiently.” (Sura al Kahf 18:67)

وَكَيْفَ تَصْبِرُ عَلَىٰ مَا لَمْ تُحِطْ بِهِ خُبْرًا

“And [says Khidr] how should you patiently bear what you have no knowledge of?” (Sura al Kahf 18:68)

Ignorance Is a Test

As our Master Ali said: “A person is an enemy of that which did not know.” It is just so much easier if you don’t understand something to say: Oh, it’s wrong or, it’s not right. Rather than admit that one does not know.

That is because it is easier on the ego. It is easier to shift blame to the thing, the object of your scorn that you don’t know, rather than to shift the blame on yourself. We think or say: “All those people are like that. That’s the way they are.”

But do you know them? Have you met them? “No, no. But that’s the way there are.” That is the ego speaking. You haven’t even seen them. You have no interaction, but yet you base it on a preconception.

So Khidr, peace be upon him, is just stating a fact of the human condition. There is a great lesson in this.


This lesson by Shaykh Walead Mosaad is part of the On Demand Course: Giving Life to Sura Al Kahf, in which Shaykh Walead explains the key lessons of Sura al Kahf: the four great stories in it and the four great tests they represent. Namely the tests of faith, wealth, knowledge, and power. Download the entire lesson-set here.

View other SeekersHub On Demand Courses here.